“Hot Stove, Cool Music” at the Paradise Rock Club on January 7

A Review of Hot Stove, Cool Music at the Paradise Rock Club on January 7, 2007

, Staff Writer

Watching baseball’s premier analyst play guitar alongside four local rockers, a left-handed starting pitcher, and an MLB general manager might not sound appealing to many folks. But here in Boston, where passion for music is exceeded only by fanaticism over the beloved Sox, this premise makes complete sense. But the location only explains half of the success of Hot Stove, Cool Music. With a lineup that boasted plenty of variety, loads of talent, and a few characters, it was also a damn good time.

Following opening sets by Eli “Paperboy” Reed and The Downbeat 5, HSCM veteran and former Letters to Cleo frontwoman Kay Hanley brought her sugar-coated-razorblade pop to stage. Hanley played some yet to be released songs, including set opener “It Hurts,” but her best song was a cover of Travis’ “Turn” which allowed her to showcase the power behind her sweet voice.

Between sets the crowd was entertained by the wit of MC Mike O’Malley formerly of CBS’s “Yes, Dear” (though I’ll always remember him as the host of GUTS) as he led auctions for items including a signed limited edition Curt Schilling First Act guitar ($3000), a day with Peter Gammons and two Red Sox vs. Yankees tickets ($4400), and a& chance to throw out the first pitch at a Sox game, which O’Malley bought himself for $5000.

After Hanley came the surprise of the night as nine people took the stage, manning four microphones, drums, keyboards, a guitar, a bass, and a turntable / laptop setup. The collective was Four Peace, a hip-hop group from Boston, and backing band Primary Other. The group brought the entire night up a notch with their infectious energy, eliciting arm waving, jumping, and dancing with their rapping and call and response choruses. Four Peace was formed as a response to the rash of violent murders in Boston these past few years, and the positive lyrical content of songs such as “4 Peace” and “Peace Pays” were well received by the crowd. They are an exciting new local act, and Hot Stove, Cool Music served as their coming out party to a wider audience.

The most anticipated act of the night were the Peter Gammons All-Stars, fronted by the man himself after his recovery from a brain aneurysm. Gammons playing the guitar and singing is much like you would imagine, except that he’s actually pretty good. He also writes a good pop song, as evidenced by the tune “She Fell From Heaven.” Gammons was joined onstage by professionals and Boston scene favorites Bill Janovitz of Buffalo Tom and Mike Gent of The Gentlemen and The Figgs, as well as Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and pitcher Lenny DiNardo on guitar, among other musicians. Theo handled himself well, but DiNardo proved to be more intimidated while playing guitar in front of a crowd of a few hundred people than while pitching in front of thousands at Fenway. The band’s set included covers of Richard Thompson’s “I Feel So Good,” Neil Young’s “Powderfinger,” and ended with a rousing version of Buffalo Tom’s “Treehouse,” reminding me why I miss the power pop of that band so much. It was a tease, as Janovitz would not return to the stage until the end of the night, but it was most definitely the musical highlight of the night.
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Mike O’Malley also took this opportunity to play up the Hot Stove angle of the night, asking Gammons and Theo about Mark Loretta, J.D. Drew, Trot Nixon, and other players. One audience member played the new game show, “Honest Answers From Theo for $500” and learned that the Sox picked Julio Lugo over Alex Gonzalex “plain and simple, because he can hit.”

Following the All-Stars were the Pernice Brothers, who brought a sort of folk-rock vibe with a definite noise-rock edge to the night. Following the Pernice Brothers were Mike Gent’s three-piece band The Figgs, whose dance-punk vibe captured the edginess of The Hives as well as the pop simplicity of OK Go. Gent proved he had the stuff that frontmen are made of, mixing humor and stage antics with serious guitar chops. Bass player Pete Donnelly provided backup harmonies and also plays quite a mean Entwistle style of bass.

The variety and versatility of the musical acts was a strong point of the show; each band had capable musicians who brought something different to the table, which helped to make the long night more enjoyable and kept it from growing stale. In addition to the music the night boasted a silent auction in the front room of the Paradise featuring autographed jerseys, game tickets, and gift certificates.

After all the acts were finished the entire cast took the stage for “guitarmageddon,” playing through the English Beat’s “Save It For Later” and Maxine Nightingale’s “Right Back Where We Started From.” Hanley may have said it best early in the night when she quipped, “Whatev, it’s for charity. It doesn’t have to sound great.” Sounding good and having fun was more than enough for this night, and Hot Stove, Cool Music gave Boston one more reason to be excited about its music and its baseball.

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